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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 February, 2005, 17:53 GMT
Plaid 'contract' targets Labour
By John Stevenson
BBC Wales Political Unit

Dafydd Iwan, Plaid Cymru president
Dafydd Iwan's party has four of the 40 Welsh MPs
Plaid Cymru knows that it isn't going to kick Tony Blair out of Downing Street.

But it was keen to stress at the beginning of its spring conference at Caernarfon that "when you elect a Plaid Cymru candidate, you elect someone who is going to put Wales' interest first and never give in to the London agenda".

Couldn't be clearer than that... or could it?

Plaid Cymru goes into the 2005 UK general election, offering what it terms a "people's contract," which, according to president Dafydd Iwan means that his party can be trusted to stick to its principles.

It isn't a detailed, costed manifesto, and Plaid doesn't say how it will make it a legally enforceable agreement.

It is, says Plaid, a statement of the party's core beliefs and clearly an invitation to Labour's disaffected to give their vote.

Plaid Cymru is now a multi-headed party
It's a good thing that it isn't been sold as a detailed, costed manifesto. On the eve of conference, senior party leaders were in a terrible muddle over the policy on using private money in the NHS.

Weeks away from an election, senior party figures rather limply told a press conference that the policy was still being discussed

Plaid didn't achieve what it had hoped for in the 2003 Welsh assembly elections.

It had expected to capitalise in Labour's traditional heartlands on disaffection with the assembly government's record on delivery of public services and Tony Blair's handing of the war in Iraq. It ran hard on those issues, making them both issues of trust.

Private mutterings

Plaid had hoped to keep the Rhondda, for instance, where it had done so spectacularly well in the previous assembly elections, and in Llanelli, which it also won.

But Labour regained both, and clearly the electoral strategy did not pay off. Plaid's then president, Ieuan Wyn Jones, bit the bullet and stood down.

Plaid Cymru is now a multi-headed party, led by former folk singer, businessman and councillor Dafydd Iwan. He leads the party on a national level with leaders for Plaid groupings in Westminster and the assembly in Cardiff.

A more traditional message in the Welsh-speaking heartlands, but going hell for leather for previously Labour votes in the industrial south
One of the party's strategic objectives for 2005 will be to regain Anglesey, the seat previously represented at Westminster by Ieuan Wyn Jones. It lost Anglesey in the last parliamentary election to Labour's Albert Owen.

Party strategists have consistently talked up the prospect of victory in Anglesey but that's to be expected. Plaid's former MEP Eurig Wyn has spent the best part of a year as a full-time prospective candidate in the island constituency, having been squeezed off the party list for the European elections.

But Eurig Wyn's prospects though, won't have been helped by the announcement earlier this week that Peter Rogers, a former Tory who represented the North Wales regional seat in the assembly, plans to stand for Westminster in Anglesey as an independent.

Privately, party strategists concede that Mr Rogers, who ran well as a constituency candidate in the assembly elections. will make a difference to Plaid Cymru's prospects.

Publicly though, it's business as usual for Mr Wyn and his party. He made a key conference speech on rural communities, for instance, and as far as Peter Rogers is concerned, to Mr Wyn it's just like Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind: "Frankly, my dear, I couldn't give a damn".

Plaid Cymru has been accused by opponents of saying different things to electors in different parts of Wales.

This time, it's a dual campaign strategy: concentrating on a more traditional message in the Welsh-speaking heartlands, but going hell for leather for previously Labour votes in the industrial south. It's a dangerous strategy, which might easily unravel again.

There have been private mutterings about Mr Iwan's electoral gravitas as president.

As far as some of his senior colleagues are concerned, he is still a leader on probation. Above all, a failure to regain Anglesey will bring such disaffection to the surface.




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